Fabio Capello’s resignation as England manager on Wednesday has provided the Football Association with an unexpected opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
Following crisis talks with FA officials at Wembley Stadium, the 65-year-old Italian walked out in protest at their decision—taken without Capello’s consultation—to remove John Terry as captain pending his trial for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers' player Anton Ferdinand.
With the case to be held after the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, the FA decided the impending criminal proceedings were incompatible with the Chelsea centre-back’s role as national captain.
Ordinarily, the resignation of an international coach a little more than four months prior to a major tournament would be deemed calamitous.
In this case however, the surprise parting of ways affords the FA with a chance to undo the mistakes made when their predecessors opted to extend Capello’s tenure in June 2010.
At the time, the FA feared losing the Italian to Serie A giants Inter Milan, and offered him a new two-year deal—only for England’s calamitous showing in South Africa to fatally undermine his position.
While matters have scarcely improved on the field since then, Capello’s handling of the Terry affair illustrated a fatal lack of judgment concerning team moral, which is surely the single most important factor affecting a national team ahead of a major tournament.
Widespread reports indicate at the very least, a portion of the England dressing room was uncomfortable with Terry’s presence during their most recent fixtures in November.
Regardless of his guilt or innocence, if the Chelsea man’s involvement has the potential to jeopardize team unity, he must be excluded until a verdict is delivered.
Whoever the FA hires to replace Capello, they must have the strength of conviction to go a step further—and stand down Terry altogether.
The leading candidate to take over is Tottenham Hotspur Manager Harry Redknapp, freshly exonerated by a not-guilty verdict in his two-week trial for tax evasion.
The 64-year-old ticks all the boxes at this moment in time.
Regarded as a coach of the ‘old school’, Redknapp reportedly endears himself to his players with a casual approach to tactical preparation.
The former West Ham and Portsmouth boss should be ideally suited to getting the best out of England’s mentally fragile contingent on short notice.
Just at ease putting his arm around a needy shoulder as he is delivering a withering blast, even the most decorated of players are likely to respect his longevity and achievements in the domestic game.
Already tipped to succeed Capello following this year’s tournament, a stumbling block must nevertheless be overcome if Redknapp is to lead his country to Poland and the Ukraine.
With Spurs on track to qualify for the Champions League, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is unlikely to part willingly with a coach that has elevated the club to a place at English football’s top table.
It remains to be seen if Levy, or indeed the FA, would be willing to allow Redknapp to share club and country duties—at least in the short-term.
An alternative candidate is Guus Hiddink, an experienced Dutchman with a track record of improving teams on short notice.
Hiddink impressed in international management with South Korea, Australia and Russia—and also took Chelsea to FA Cup success during a brief tenure as caretaker in 2008-09.
The new man will also have to settle on a captain to replace Terry, and while Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard presents himself as an obvious choice—the newcomer would do worse than to consider Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.
A relative late bloomer on the international stage, but a model professional held in high regard by his peers—Parker benefits from a lack of association with England’s recent failures.
At 31, he is mature enough to carry to inevitable pressures that go hand-in-hand with the role, and would be ably supported by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart as a deputy and long-term successor.
Offered an unlikely chance to redeem themselves for past failures, it is time for the FA to act decisively and prudently; thereby offering England the best chance of acquitting themselves well in June—while also laying the foundations for sustained success.
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